Huge Decision of the Week: Broncos-Ravens, Week 5

Note: Each Wednesday,  we take a look at a critical coaching decision from the prior week’s game that had an impact on the final score—from a statistical point.

It is rumored that during the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon yelled to his generals, “We get the ball to start the 2nd half!”  Of course, we all know how that ended.  I don’t have the stats from that game, but I think the French missed a late field goal and turned the ball over 3 times, while committing stupid penalty after stupid penalty.

Fans also love talking about getting the ball to begin the 2nd half—thousands of times in front of thousands of televisions across America.  It’s uttered so much, in fact, that one might assume that getting the ball to start the 3rd quarter was worth actual points.

Unfortunately, opportunity just isn’t enough in the NFL.  You still have to score.

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Dirty agents Lard 10-13-10

Good Morning, Broncos fans! The Broncos waived defensive lineman Jeff Stehle yesterday, who had been on the practice squad. But really, the biggest news is that NFL player agent Josh Luchs has come clean about paying college players while recruiting them as potential clients. This story printed just weeks after Charles Robinson of Yahoo! wrote that Elvis Dumervil’s agent Gary Wichard was being investigated under similar allegations. In fact, Wichard is prominently featured in the SI article, along with none other than Mel Kiper. Obviously, this is a must-read article, full of interesting details and names, if perhaps not much of a shocker.

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The Stats That Don’t Lie, Week 5 - What Would LeBeau Do (WWLD)?

The Broncos are stacked.

Unfortunately, they are a little top heavy.

Like the guy at the gym who only works his arms, the Broncos have some gigantic biceps.

If they could only work on those chicken legs before they go puffing out their chest.

This week’s stats are going to show you what you already know.  The Broncos can pass, but they can’t run.  However, even the numbers are misleading (lying, you might say?).  Most of these passing yards are hollow because the Broncos have been playing from behind in all of their games. 

Either way, you’ve come looking for the stats, so you’re going to get them.  Strong.  Long.  And ready to get the friction on.

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Moving Molehills - What’s wrong with Denver’s running game?

When Josh McDaniels ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

And right now, Belichick’s apprentice is pretty pissed off.

That’s because the Broncos, despite being larger at the buffet line, can’t win at the line of scrimmage.

McDaniels even went so far as to question the Broncos’ mental toughness.

He should.  After watching film of Sunday’s game, I’ve become convinced the Broncos are physically tough.  When they are man-on-man, they can block.  The Ravens didn’t destroy the Broncos physically Sunday when Denver ran the ball.

But one mental error—which is translated physically—can break down an entire play. 

And McDaniels, if he’s willing to admit it or not, would probably tell you that sometimes the defense just brings more guys than you can block.

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Injuries galore Lard 10-12-10

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Unfortunately, there was plenty of bad injury news yesterday, although perhaps not as bad as originally thought. Robert Ayers may only be out for six weeks with a broken foot after an earlier prognosis of 2 to 3 months. Brian Dawkins is out at least two weeks with a strained knee ligament. Andre’ Goodman, Darcel McBath and Wesley Woodyard have already been ruled out of Sunday’s game as well. Meanwhile, Mayor Hickenlooper has officially declared this an Orange Sunday as the NJ Jets come to town. Unfortunately he didn’t also declare it a Level One People Must Stand And Cheer On Key Defensive Plays Sunday, but perhaps that was implied?

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Baltimore/Denver game Musings

There’s nothing quite like getting your hat handed to you, is there? When you get an old-fashioned whipping, you take it and move onward. There’s a good point in working out what went wrong - there’s no point in taking it too far. This was one of the top teams in the league, fresh off whipping the Steelers in Pittsburgh. They look and play like one of the best, and right now, they are. Denver? Not yet. Surprised? You shouldn’t be.
I mentioned this week that of the 53 players on the active roster of Denver in 2008, 32 of them couldn’t even get jobs in the league, playing ball. That means that you’re realistically looking at between 40 and 50 new players, and not all of them are going to be with the team in three more years, either. Some of them are band-aids - I see Jamal Williams that way, and it bothers me that we didn’t fill in a young NT, but that’s the way the draft goes. Or, is it?

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Three defensive starters declared out for Sunday

In his Monday presser, Josh McDaniels has already announced that the Broncos will be without several defensive starters for Sunday’s matchup against the Jets. Linebackers Robert Ayers and Wesley Woodyard, safeties Brian Dawkins and Darcel McBath, and cornerback Andre’ Goodman are all out. UPDATE 7:45 PM ET - Ayers reportedly has a broken foot and will be out 2 to 3 months, while Dawkins will be out 2 to 3 weeks with a strained knee ligament.

A Second Helping of…Kyle Orton

Note: Each Monday we take a look at a player the Broncos used in a new, creative, or interesting way in the previous day’s game.  This week we’re getting a second plate of Kyle Orton.

After a game like yesterday, it’s difficult to find anything creative or interesting.  The Ravens shook their tail feathers in the faces of the Broncos all day. 

So when in doubt on whom to focus on today, I decided to go with the guy who threw for 300 yards. 

It’s not Orton’s specific stats that I want to focus on (we’ll get to that in a moment).  It’s something specific he’s doing in the pocket this year that all of the so-called elite quarterbacks do in this league.  On a weekly basis, you’ll see Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees do it.  Ben Roethlisberger (when he’s not spending time in Georgia college towns) probably does it best in the league.

Just what do they do that is so elite?

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More of the same Lard 10-11-10

UPDATED 9:45 AM ET

Good Morning, Broncos fans. That felt familiar, didn’t it? In case you missed it, yesterday’s game went just like every other trip to Baltimore for the Broncos - so just picture one of those prior affairs and you’re good. Denver got shoved around (28 first downs and 233 rushing yards for BAL), played undisciplined (10 penalties), couldn’t keep the ball (1 fumble and 23:43 of possession), couldn’t move the ball (one fruitless trip to the red zone), and again lost the battle up front (4 tackles for loss and 1 sack for BAL, 0 TFL and 1 sack for DEN) in losing 31-17. The final score does not do the game justice, however - the Ravens may have had a TD on their first drive had they challenged the call, and the Broncos got a garbage-time TD pass from Kyle Orton to Brandon Lloyd for their final score (Lloyd’s second of the game). In other words, it wasn’t nearly as close as 14 points would indicate, and really it felt more like a 42-10 game. Andre’ Goodman started but departed after just four plays, while Darcel McBath injured an ankle and Demaryius Thomas left with an apparent neck injury while fumbling a kickoff he returned from five yards deep. Brian Dawkins, David Bruton and Robert Ayers also got a bit banged up. Better rest/heal up quickly, though - another bruising team is next on the schedule, as the New Jersey Jets visit on Sunday.

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Gut Reactions - Week 5, Broncos-Ravens

As a Broncos fan, it was hard to watch the past five seasons as teams like the Ravens continued to simply beat up on Mike Shanahan’s finesse offenses.

But in some ways, it’s even harder to watch the same thing happen to a bigger Broncos team like the one Josh McDaniels is creating.

The Broncos are bigger.  The Broncos are tougher.  But against the standard bearers of big and tough—the Baltimore Ravens—they continue to play small and weak.

For all of the talk about the Broncos high-octane passing attack, they were the ones to internally combust.

But can a team really light itself on fire in all phases of a football game?  Apparently so.

The Broncos lost the game 31-17.  As a player, a coach, an owner, and a fan, you can point in a lot of different directions.  Drive-killing penalties?  Check.  Turnovers?  Check.  Lack of pressure?  Check.

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